It’s been a year since Leon lost his championship title. He’s Chairman Leon now. He’s Battle Tower Leon now. The sting of everything that loomed over him as Champion should be dying down. It should be getting easier. It isn’t. If anything, it’s getting worse. Sometimes, Leon doesn’t even know who he is.
And it’s weird, because sometimes he does. Sometimes he feels happy and fulfilled. He sees the battle tower operating well, and he gets that warm feeling in his chest, and he thinks, for a moment, it’s all getting better. But then he falls back into those negative thoughts.
He knows who Raihan says he is. He sits at the island in their now mostly shared kitchen and stares down at the notebook in front of him. It’s three in the morning, and Raihan is fast asleep. He hears his words in his head - handsome, strong, determined, resilient, brilliant, stubborn as a Mudbray and I love you for it . But none of the words form in meaningful ways in Leon’s head. They float around just out of his grasp. He’s lucky he has Raihan - sometimes he thinks he’s the only thing grounding him.
Leon clicks his pen against the granite. He decides he’ll make a list. That’s always what he does. Compartmentalize. Organize.
A list of things he knows for sure about himself. He takes a deep breath
1- I’m determined - I work hard, and it pays off
Leon stirs awake with a painful kink in his neck. He groans and reaches up to massage himself. He’s in his office at the battle tower, papers are strewn around his crowded desk. It seems he’d been halfway through reading some sort of agreement for affiliation with the Kalos Battle Chateau. And he’d drooled all over it. Leon rubs his eyes and taps his cheeks. Clenches his fists. Squeezes. Grounds himself. He picks up his phone and pages his secretary.
The phone rings, and rings, and rings --
Leon glances up at the clock and groans. It’s half-past eleven at night. Everyone would have gone home. Raihan is probably missing him. He looks down and finds several missed texts, asking where he is. Telling him dinner’s in the fridge. Telling him he’s snuggling his Trapinch plush and missing Leon. The last one is accompanied by a selfie. Raihan, dark circles under his eyes, pressing his cheek to the plush Leon won him at the Hammerlock fair. His hair is tangled and flipped to one side. He smiles sadly at that. He hopes Raihan isn’t still waiting up.
Dozed off at my desk , he texts, home soon . He straightens his back and reaches his arms up, popping his joints. He can work a copy machine. He may as well finish what he was doing before he goes home. Raihan doesn’t text back immediately, which probably means he’s asleep.
Leon lets himself pause for a moment to scroll through his boyfriend’s feed. He was obviously spending quality time with his Duraludon earlier- the big suck-up. He has a picture of him looking a bit pained, the big metal dragon nuzzling under his neck, none the wiser to how uncomfortable his body is to cuddle against. Another shows Raihan laying on his stomach on Duraludon’s back as the Pokemon lies down. He’s polishing it carefully- something it needs every couple of weeks to keep in top shape. Leon sighs and closes his phone before standing up.
He ambles his way to the copy room, finds the original copy of the document - this isn’t the first time Leon has done this - and makes another copy. He walks back to his office and sits down with a sigh, looking over the pile of papers. He’s grateful it’s so hard to get lost in the Battle Tower. How many of these papers has he gone through? He doesn’t know when his desk got so disorganized. He’s usually good about that. He tries to ignore it and gets to reading through the agreement. He keeps glancing up at stacks of unorganized papers, his stress building.
No, he just needs to finish with this one thing, then go home, cuddle up with his boyfriend--
He looks up again. He decides it won’t be too much time to organize the stacks. He signs the bottom of his current paper and gets to work.
Leon arrives home at two in the morning, his eyes sore from strain, his hands cramped. He makes his way to the kitchen to eat something before he crawls into bed- he doesn’t remember the last time he ate. As he walks, he undoes his cravat and shrugs off his jacket, leaving him in a loose white button-up. He places them on the back of the couch. He’ll need them again tomorrow, anyway. Then he pauses. On the couch Raihan is sitting, neck craned forward, over-sized Trapinch plush cuddled to his chest. Leon’s chest tightens. He’d waited for him, because of course he did.
He sighs and leans over. He squeezes his boyfriend’s shoulder gently, and when Raihan stirs with a groan, Leon kisses his cheek. “Hey, darling- sorry I kept you waiting. Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll be there in a second.”
“Lee?” Raihan says, blinking sleep from his eyes, “what time is it? Sorry I-” he yawns, “Sorry I fell asleep.”
“Two in the morning. Don’t worry, love, go back to sleep.”
“Two AM?” Raihan suddenly looks more awake, “Lee, you can’t work that late- you’ll hurt yourself.”
Leon laughs and makes his way to the kitchen. He pulls out the leftover curry Raihan made and spoons a few cold bites into his mouth. “You know me,” he sighs. Hard-working man-of-the-people Leon. He couldn’t afford not to be on top of it- he’d been on top of it for the last ten years. He had an image.
“I do know you,” Raihan is behind him now. He rests his hands gently on Leon’s hips and presses kisses to the top of his head. “You’ve been so stressed out lately, babe. You need a vacation.”
Leon snorts. He closes the tupperware and places the leftover curry back in the fridge. “I’ve never taken a vacation in my life.” He says as he makes his way to the bedroom. “It was my turn to cook, wasn’t it? I’ll cook tomorrow and the next day, alright?” Raihan hums and nudges him the other way.
“Needa take your shot,” he mumbles, directing him towards the bathroom. He’s leaning a bit on him, face nuzzling into the back of Leon’s shoulder. He’s right. Leon swears Raihan knows his schedule better than he does himself. He makes his way towards the bathroom and rolls his shoulders back.
“Need you to let go for a minute, Rai.” He whispers. He prepares the needle and Raihan stands upright.
“Wan me t’do it?” he asks through a yawn as Leon eyes the needle dubiously. Even years of taking his testosterone like this hasn’t made him love the sight of needles, so on days where he’s tired, or not feeling well, sometimes he gets Raihan to help.
“No, sleepyhead,” Leon says, tapping his cheek fondly. He injects himself and turns around, wrapping his arms around Raihan’s waist and pulling him close. “Bed now.” He hums, pushing Raihan back towards the bedroom.
Raihan flops onto their bed, still clutching that Trapinch plush. Leon smiles at him. He looks so cute, hugging that thing, hair messy, wearing loose Goomy pajama bottoms and a black tank top. Leon would kiss him silly, if he wasn’t so tired. He undoes his button-up and slips it off. He swaps his jodhpurs for a pair of shorts and falls into bed beside his boyfriend.
“I love you,” Raihan whispers, but he sounds worried.
“I love you, too,” Leon says. He rolls over to face Raihan, and finds those icy blue eyes clouded with thought.
“Lee… don’t take this the wrong way, but--”
Leon knows where this is going. They’ve had this conversation a few times recently. Raihan thinks he needs to see a doctor or a therapist. The word traumatized had come up once, and it had sent Leon into such a panic that Raihan had never brought it up again. He wasn’t traumatized because nothing that happened to him was that bad. He was overworked. That was all. He was-
“I’m fine.” He says, his voice a bit too harsh, and he bites his lip at the hurt look that ghosts over Raihan’s features.
“Dandelion…” Raihan whispers the name as he presses their foreheads together. Leon clenches his jaw. The name always makes him feel calmer - but he does not want to touch on this topic again. Not right now.
“I’m fine.” He says.
He expects some more resistance, but his boyfriend nods. He still looks worried. He moves his plush out of the way and wraps his arms around Leon’s waist. He presses his forehead to Leon’s chest and sighs deeply. Leon rubs circles on his back. Raihan doesn’t say anything else.
1b- But I lose myself in it sometimes. I think I make those around me worry too much
2- I’m an inspiration to many
Leon and Raihan had gone on one of their first public outings as a couple earlier in the day, if it could be called public. They’d gone to a private beach near Hullbury before Raihan was called to his gym to fight a challenger. Leon didn’t mind - they’d spent a good couple of hours alone together. He’d prepared dinner for the two of them, even though it was Raihan’s day, so it’s ready to pop in the oven when he got home. Now, he lay on his couch, head propped up on throw pillows, as he scrolls through various social media feeds. When he opens up Instagram, he sees that Raihan has posted something. He smiles- that probably means he’ll be home soon.
It isn’t a post-battle selfie, though. It’s a picture of Leon. They’d just been swimming, he recalls. He looks happy in this one. He’s smiling wide, leaning back on his hands and soaking in the sun. The scars on his upper body- from when he was tossed around by Eternatus, and on his chest- from top surgery- are little white, barely-there slivers on his skin. Raihan has made him feel better about those. In the background, barely visible, are his Charizard and Raihan’s Duraludon curled up together, basking in the sun. He scrolls down to read the caption.
I can’t believe I get to kiss the most gorgeous man in the world . Followed by a bunch of heart emojis. Leon sits up straighter and pulls his knees close, a dreamy smile spreading across his features, because Raihan is a sap, and he loves him. He scrolls down and comments.
Look in the mirror lately?
Instantly, likes and replies flood his notification feed. He scrolls through them, humming happily at the affirming messages he’s receiving. People are sweet. They always have been. Several people tell him about how their relationship makes them feel stronger, how Leon makes them feel stronger- more confident. It warms him.
It’s been a while since Leon was set off by a comment, but when he reads it, it’s like his brain turns to static. It’s something benign, really. It says maybe Raihan would be happier if he found himself an actual man . He’s seen worse. But before he knows it, he’s clutching one of the pillows for dear life and breathing hard. Hot tears sting at his eyes. It’s been so long since he cried over shit like this.
When Leon became Champion, Rose immediately looked for ways to earn sponsorships - to cause a stir. One day, he looked at Leon and said, “You’re going to be the first openly transgender Champion in Galar history.” The idea had terrified Leon. He wasn’t secretive about his identity, but the idea of broadcasting it to the world? He was sixteen. He wasn’t ready for that. He didn’t want that.
He swallowed and said yes.
Because Rose was his boss, the only one he’d ever had. Rose was his sponsor. Rose was why he was where he was today. It would be ungrateful for Leon to not go along with it. He probably knew best. He’d been in charge of Rose Tower for two decades already, and regardless, people these days were good about this sort of thing.
Rose peppered Leon with reassurances as they flew to their first interview on the subject. Leon didn’t pay attention. He texted Raihan the whole time and spilled his insecurities. Raihan urged him to tell Rose no. Leon stopped looking at his phone. He shoved it in his pocket and tried to take deep, steadying breaths. He dug his nails into his palms nearly hard enough to draw blood.
The next hours passed in a blur wherein he was shoved - sometimes physically - between people, asked a million questions, many of which were far too invasive, and somehow, he ended up back at his flat in Wyndon. His too-big, empty flat.
At the front door, Rose scolded him, gently - he never raised his voice - about not answering enough of the questions. Leon bowed his head and apologized.
He flopped down onto his bed and opened his phone. He had a plastic container of mixed fruit open on his stomach. Rose told him he had to eat better, but he was tired, and he didn’t feel like cooking. His most recent message from Raihan read: Don’t look on social media .
So of course, he looked on social media.
At first, he couldn’t imagine why Raihan had told him not to check social media. The majority of comments were sweet. He found himself misty-eyed at the number of young trainers telling him that he was an inspiration to them. Occasionally, he would even reply to them. Unfortunately, that honeymoon period didn’t last long, and soon he happened upon the root of Raihan’s anxieties.
There were entire articles speculating about him, if he was making being trans up for attention, misgendering him. Leon had been lucky, he knew, to never have come across something this malicious before, but it hit him like a truck. It was like something inside him physically shattered as he forced himself through half a dozen articles, before throwing his phone across the room and pulling his too-heavy cape over him. He curled up under the comforting weight of it and cried. Raihan tried to call him, but he couldn’t answer. He couldn’t leave his bed. His head was screaming . He balled his hands into fists and pressed them hard to his temples. He clenched his jaw and sobbed, and sobbed, and let out garbled noises of frustration when his phone buzzed on the ground.
Eventually, sleep found him.
In the morning, one of Rose’s men knocked on the door. Leon refused to come out from under his cape. Within the hour, Rose had entered his flat.
“Leon, you cannot shirk your duties. When you signed your contract, you made a promise--”
“Leave me alone,” Leon’s voice cracked, and for a moment, Rose’s eyes gleamed with something akin to sympathy, before hardening once again.
“This isn’t how a Champion behaves, Leon,” he paused, “tell me what’s bothering you.”
And so Leon did. He told Rose about the articles, and about how uncomfortable the probing made him. He told him that he didn’t want to do any more interviews about his gender. Rose frowned and furrowed his brows.
“It’s mostly positive - surely you can handle some backlash?” he pressed. Leon clenched his fists and shook his head, stubbornly pulling his cape over his head again. The weight of it over his shoulders was like a physical force pushing his anxiety down.
Rose was silent for a moment before heaving a sigh. “Fine, but you’ll have to learn to grow a thicker skin if you’re going to be a public figure.”
He left after that. Leon didn’t listen to him. He got indignant. He got angry. He cut his hair short, down to just below his ears, even though he knew he hated having short hair. He refused interviews, until one day, Rose snapped.
Leon’s memory blanks out there. He remembers yelling. He remembers fear.
He remembers never acting out like that again.
Leon would like to think that he’s grown a thicker skin since then. Nothing has affected him like this in years. And it’s nothing , he keeps trying to tell himself. Dozens more people are probably already racing to defend him, and yet- and yet--
Leon is reminded of how breakable he is. How fragile. It’s so odd. He’s seen himself projected everywhere, for so long. He sees full-body portraits of himself on advertisements throughout the region, and he has since he was a kid. He’s larger than life. Even if he isn’t Champion anymore, he’s basically the King of Galar. Chairman Leon, former Champion Leon.
Painfully, awfully, human Leon.
He barely registers the door opening at first. When he hears Raihan’s voice merrily calling his name, he stands and stumbled over.
“Wha-” Raihan whispers when Leon falls into his arm, sobbing into the shirt of his gym uniform. “Leon, baby, what happened?”
He manages to guide Leon over to the couch, and as Leon sobs and tries to explain, he scrolls through his own feed for answers. When he finds his answer, he stops, hands trembling. Leon knows he probably deleted the comment, that he might have reported the commenter, because that’s all he can do short of finding the person’s IP address and giving them a piece of his mind. But he doesn’t do that, and Leon is glad- he’d hate to cause trouble over something so minuscule . Instead, Raihan wraps his arms around his boyfriend. He nuzzles into his neck and mutters reassurances.
Eventually, Leon is able to stop crying. “Thank you,” he rasps.
Raihan smiles, “You’re handsome even when you’re covered in snot,” he taps his cheek as he says the last word. Leon swats his hand away but manages a smile.
“I haven’t been so bothered by something in a long time - I know they aren’t worth it.” Leon swallows, “It’s stupid, really.”
“It isn’t stupid,” Raihan says, pressing a kiss to the corner of Leon’s mouth, “it’s normal. I think anyone would be upset over that- hell, it upset me,” he presses his forehead to Leon’s, “You know you don’t have to worry about crying in front of me, right?”
Leon nods. He’s been told. He knows it objectively, and he feels safe here, nestled against Raihan, but still, there’s something at the back of his mind that nags at him. It tells him that he’s inconveniencing Raihan. It tells him that one day, it will be too much.
He’ll be okay.
He wonders for how long.
2b. But I’m not indestructible. I wish I was.
3. I love my family, and they love me too
Leon visits his family more, now that he isn’t Champion, but mostly he visits Hop. He visits Hop at the lab, because whenever he’s home, he has to contend with the bonafide shrine his parents have constructed for him, and he seriously doesn’t know how to contend with that. It makes him feel a hundred things at once, and he’s worried that, once he has some time alone in his childhood home, he’ll be forced to unpack everything it makes him feel.
“Bye, Mum,” Raihan says. He presses a quick kiss to Leon’s mum’s cheek, and Leon leans his cheek against his hand from where he sits at the dining room table as he watches his boyfriend get ready.
“Stooooop making heart-eyes at your boyfriend,” Hop groans, reaching over to poke him with a waffle-laden fork.
“Ack- syrup,” Leon shakes his hand. Hop leans over and sticks his tongue out, making an obnoxious mleh sound. Leon gives him a shove, then rubs the syrupy side of his hand on Hop’s cheek.
“Hey! I have to go to work!”
“Shoulda thought of that before you poked me with a waffle,” Leon hums, shoving some of his own food in his mouth.
“ Lee ,” Raihan’s voice reaches him. He’s whining. When Leon looks up, he’s giving him a comical pout. “Come give your boyfriend a goodbye kiss.”
“I already gave you a goodbye kiss,” Leon says through a mouthful of waffle.
“ Another goodbye kiss,” Raihan says, fluttering his eyelashes, “c’mon Dandelion .”
Hop smirks at him when he immediately gets up to give Raihan another kiss. His boyfriend smiles against his lips, and Leon wants to flick his nose for being so damned smug, but it’s not like he doesn’t want to kiss him, anyway.
“I’ll see you tonight - kick those challenger’s tails.” Leon hums. Raihan leans forward for another quick kiss and whispers a quick I love you before stepping out the front door.
“I’ll be going too,” Hop says, leaning over to wipe his syrupy cheek on Leon’s sleeve as he goes.
“Hey! Raihan knitted this!” Leon calls after his brother, rubbing at the coarse white fabric of his sweater. His mum tuts and shakes her head as Hop giggles and runs out the door. Leon prods at the fabric with a frown. Raihan wasn’t exactly a professional seamstress, but he’d made it for Leon.
“It’ll be fine dear, go change and I’ll wash it. How’s about we watch some home-reno shows?”
Home renovation was always more his mum’s thing, but as he’s gotten older, Leon finds he likes them more and more. He imagines buying a home with Raihan. Sometimes his thoughts go even further than that, but that isn’t something he’s brought up yet. He frowns as the host insists on painting the exterior white. “It had so much character before,” he complains.
“You always like the ones with the flashy colors,” his mum says, not pausing in her knitting. Leon shrugs in response. Who doesn’t like bright colors? Well, other than the majority of people on these shows. His mother gently pushes his legs, which are laying across her lap, to the floor and stands. “I’m actually going to go pick up a few things for lunch, alright? I’ll be back soon.”
“I’ll come with you,” Leon says, standing up quickly- probably too quickly, judging by the look on his mum’s face.
“No, no, that’s fine. Relax. I like shopping alone.”
Leon offers a few more protests, each of them handily shut down by his mum, and somehow, moments later, Leon is exactly where he hoped he wouldn’t be. Alone in his childhood home. Alone with his thoughts. His thoughts are terrible company.
Leon walks back into the living room and looks at the mantel. He wonders how his family got some of these pictures of him. He wanders up to them, closely examining each one. There aren’t any childhood photos here, he realizes. None from before he started his gym challenge. Most of them are of his as champion. There’s only one or two of him during his journey. There aren’t any from the last year. He recalls giving his mum a photo of himself and Raihan a month or so back, but he doesn’t see it here either. He wonders if it’s somewhere else, because surely these can’t be the only pictures she has of him. It feels weird, looking at all this- uncomfortable, bringing up feelings he desperately does not want to address.
Leon feels dread build in his belly. Looking at the display all together is… a lot, to say the least. He wonders how disappointed his family was when he failed. He’d never asked. They’d never said anything. But the… whatever this was- shrine? It was all so fixated on Champion Leon. He swallows and begins a slow walk through the house, looking for other pictures.
The fridge is rather bare. It’s covered in a few old drawings that Leon and Hop had made when they were younger, an outdated grocery list, and some novelty magnets Leon had brought back from various visits around the globe. He moves on, heading upstairs. His grandparents are in Unova at the moment, and the whole atmosphere is thrown off. He knows well enough what his and Hop’s rooms look like. He has a picture of Hop and his Rillaboom, and Hop when he first got his Wooloo. He also has some pictures of himself and Sonia, or the two of them with Raihan. And a more recent one of Raihan asleep on his shoulder. Hop’s room is mostly decorated with posters of various Pokemon.
He’s never been in his mum’s or grandparent’s rooms uninvited. He feels strange stepping in, but the feeling in his stomach is building. He feels like he might throw up.
Is his family secretly disappointed?
Do they hate him for failing?
Is he less for failing?
Do they care less for Hop because he isn’t Champion?
Does Hop hate him for stealing their attention?
The thoughts swirl loudly in his head, and he tries to combat them. He tries to reassure himself that his family is always so loud in their love. They throw parties and invite the whole neighborhood. They hug and kiss cheeks in greeting. The dote and fawn. But when he starts to take everything apart. Something about it feels fake. He doesn’t know how much of it is, but it’s there. He wonders how he never noticed it.
His mum’s room has a picture of dad on the mantel. Leon pointedly does not look at it. On the dresser is the picture of Leon with Raihan, unframed, the edges deteriorating slightly under a thin layer of dust. Leon picks it up, his breath hitching. He puts it in his pocket and wonders if his mom will notice.
He’s beginning to think she probably won’t.
She’s always so proud. It seems so contradictory, knowing her but feeling all this. He wonders if he’s exaggerating, or making it all up. Leon’s head feels like it’s enveloped in a fog. He wanders into his grandparents’ room and finds it bare, so he returns downstairs. A click of the door has his jerking his head up, and when he sees Hop standing in the doorway, muttering something about forgetting to pack a lunch, Leon lunges forward, startling a squeak out of Hop as he draws him into a crushing hug.
“Lee?” Hop manages, his voice muffled against the fabric of Leon’s turtleneck. Leon hugs him tighter until he feels Hop frantically tapping his arm. He lets go and holds Hop back, taking in the startled look in his little brother’s golden eyes. “What was that for?” he managed a stiff laugh, “what, you think I wasn’t coming back?”
When Leon sat back on the linoleum of the kitchen floor, Hop sat crossed-legged in front of him, waiting for his response.
“I’m sorry,” Leon finally managed. Hop opened his mouth to reply, then snapped it shut as Leon continued. “Mum’s out. I was wandering around the house and, Arceus above, Hop, it’s all me, isn’t it?”
The silence hangs between them for a moment, and when Leon looks up, Hop is staring down at his shoes. “It is.”
Leon swallows, “It’s a lot. I’m still her Champion, she says, but I wonder if she’s disappointed in me now,” Hop offers him a tiny smile, but doesn’t interrupt when Leon continues, “but it’s nothing compared to how you must feel. Being Champion - I know how it affected you- saw how it affected you, but I can’t imagine.” He clenches his teeth. “I think she loves us, gran and pa’, too, and they say they do, but-”
“Actions,” Hop offers, his voice quiet. Leon looks up again, and tears are running silently down his brother’s cheeks.
“Actions,” Leon repeats. After a pause, he adds, “I don’t understand how you don’t hate me.”
Hop sighs and shifts, to be as comfortable as he can manage on the cold floor. “I tried to, once. When I was twelve, but then you came home, and you… Lee, you show your love in everything you do. You made sure to come home for every one of my birthdays, even if you couldn’t take time off for your own.” He reaches forward and wraps his arms around Leon’s neck. “It wasn’t your fault. Even then, I could see that.”
Leon smiles, “I’m glad, but I’m still sorry.”
Hop nods and pulls back again. “It must be hard for you, too, seeing that bloody shrine.”
“It is,” Leon says. He stands up, holding his hand out to pull Hop to his feet. He pulls him into another hug, this one lighter.
“Sonia once told Victor that you practically raised me,” Hop whispers into Leon’s shoulder, and Leon feels tears welling in his eyes. He presses his face into his brother’s hair as his body shakes in a silent sob. “I dunno ‘bout that, but I do know you had a whole lotta expectation on ya’. It wasn’t just me, Lee. They hurt you too.” He hugs Leon tighter, “Even if they didn’t mean to.”
Leon is finally able to pull back, and he smiles down at Hop, who offers that same, wide smile back. It hurts a bit, but it feels wrong to sit and mope after everything. Their mum always said it was their dad’s smile. “Well, Hopster, if you ever wanna visit, my doors always open.”
“When you and Raihan are married,” Hop says, a teasing lilt in his voice, “how’s about I visit you on holidays- hm? Good ol’ uncle Hop?”
Leon practically chokes, blush rushing to his cheeks, but he doesn’t refute it. The idea of marrying Raihan sounds nice. Not yet, maybe not for a few years, but one day. “I think we’d like that,” he whispers.
Hop nods and shuffles past Leon to pull tupperware out of the fridge. “I gotta head back to work. I love you, Lee.”
“Love you, Hop,” he whispers, giving his brother another quick hug before he’s out the door once again.
Leon’s mum returns, none the wiser to what just transpired, and merrily makes Leon food. They slip back into normalcy, but Leon feels just slightly more distant, like he’s watching her from a distance. He wants to probe her, but he doesn’t think he can handle it, not yet. He sits at the kitchen island and watches his mother cook, then eats and chats with her about nothing in particular.
When Raihan comes home, sweeping Leon up into his arms and spinning him around, Leon takes him aside and tells him what happened in hushed whispers. Raihan trails kisses down the side of his face and mumbles reassurances. Leon tells him he’s okay, but he’s not sure if he is. He knows he should be - he didn’t get the worst of it, after all, but it feels weird. Like he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to feel.
He wishes there was a guidebook on how to react to finding out your family may have hurt you.
When his mum is asleep, he lays with Raihan and Hop in the cool grass outside his childhood home. His shirt is soaked through from the dew, but he doesn’t mind. The sensation helps ground him. Hop begins to tell him and Raihan about the constellations and the stories behind them, why some of them are named after Pokemon despite not really looking like them. Raihan has his arms stretched out behind them, resting his head on his hands as he listens quietly to Hop.
Leon rolls over onto his side, laying his cheek on Raihan’s chest. Raihan reaches a hand down to comb his fingers through his hair. He watches Hop and he feels a bit sad, but he mostly feels proud. For the moment, he can push aside his guilt, his confusion, the emerging frustration and anger.
He watches his brother talk, confident and secure in himself, and Leon thinks that he’s the proudest he’s ever been.
3b. Sometimes I think my family might have hurt me, too. I don’t think they mean to. They must be so disappointed. I’m sorry.
4. I have a vivid imagination
Raihan has his hand on Leon’s hips. They’re both dressed in formal attire, and Leon hates how the stiff, black fabric hugs his skin. But he loves how Raihan looks at him, like he’s the only person in the room. He isn’t, of course. There are a couple hundred people in the room. It’s an international league conference. They’ll have to do a lot of talking and sitting in stuffy rooms tomorrow, but for now, they’re spinning and chatting and drinking.
Raihan twirls Leon, who lets out a barking laugh and almost falls forward onto his boyfriend, who stumbles but manages to catch himself. They hear Nessa yelling at them from across the dance floor to get a room, to which Raihan responds with a rude gesture and a wide grin.
“Hey, look at me,” Leon says, grabbing at Raihan’s free hand to guide it back to his hip. “Love you.”
“Love you,” Raihan says, and then he dips Leon, which is not what the music called for, and it takes Leon entirely by surprise. He yelps and scrambles to grab hold of Raihan’s shoulders, which shake with laughter as he pulls Leon back upright.
Raihan lets go as the song ends. Claire of Johto has made her way over, and she taps Raihan on the shoulder. Leon looks over and sees a gathering of dragon type specialists. Raihan looks at him, as if asking permission. Leon scoffs and leans up, pressing a quick kiss to the corner of Raihan’s mouth. “Go on,” he says. Raihan smiles and follows Claire.
Leon makes his way off the dance floor, he takes a glass of whatever the red liquid on the table is and leans against a sturdy wooden table. It’s been three months since that day in his childhood home with Hop. As he watches Raihan talk to the other league members, animated and smiling, throwing his hands in the air, Leon tilts his head to rest it on his shoulder.
When you and Raihan are married Hop had said. He wonders what that would be like. He knows he should be socializing, but instead he stands and watches and feels warmth in his chest. He doesn’t think marriage is in the cards just yet, but he lets his mind wander regardless. He wonders which of them will decide to propose first. He imagines their wedding day, both dressed much like they are today, but Leon doubts he’ll even notice how uncomfortable the fabric is, because he’ll be marrying Raihan . He imagines walking down the aisle and looking up and seeing tears in his boyfriend- fiance- husband ’s eyes. He imagines reciting their vows and mid-way through Raihan’s body trembles and he begins to cry and laugh at the same time, and Leon follows close behind, Raihan’s tears driving his own out unbidden.
He realizes tears are prickling at the corners of his eyes, and he shakes his head, a sigh escaping him. He brings the glass of punch up to his mouth and takes an experimental sip. He wrinkles his nose and looks down at it critically.
“What’re you thinkin’ about?” A familiar voice sounds next to his ear. Leon turns and smiles easily over at Sonia. It’s been a while, he realizes, since they chatted. How long? He hadn’t even gotten to see her when he last visited his family.
“Raihan,” he sighs, like a lovesick teenager. Sonia snorts and wraps her arm around Leon’s wide shoulders, giving him a squeeze.
“You’re a dork,” she says, taking a swig of her own drink.
“Guilty as charged,” he replies, taking another drink. “This is an atrocity- who prepared the food here?”
“Juan, I think,” Sonia hums, placing her drink on the table. “But you’re right- these drinks taste like they were made to suit a ten-year-old- I think I just sprouted five cavities.” Leon chuckles at that and puts his glass down next to her’s.
Sonia regards him for a moment, “How’ve you been, Lee? I know you were having a rough go at it last time we talked.”
Leon frowns and looks across the room, contemplating his answer. He knows Sonia won’t take a simple I’m fine . But he doesn’t know what else to say. He is fine. Or he should be. He chews at his bottom lip.
His salvation comes in the form of the Sinnoh Champion, Cynthia, who strides to his side and smiles over her drink. “Leon! I’ve been looking for you- do you have a moment to talk about some battle strategy with me?” she gestures over to one of the balconies. “I’ve been having some trouble with a Dreepy I caught last time I was here and was hoping you could offer some insight.” She looks over at Sonia and gives his childhood friend a wink, which Leon thinks is rather bold of her. Sonia blushes and turns to look down at her hands.
“I can definitely do that. Sorry, Sonia, gotta go,” he knows he’s gonna get an earful about brushing her off later, but for now, he grabs Cynthia by the arm and walks with her outside. He’s always been able to get into the mindset of his Pokemon. He’s always been able to think of non-traditional training methods for Pokemon whose behavior is a bit more erratic. He thinks it’s probably part of what makes him a force to be reckoned with. He gives Cynthia his advice, but all the while, he can feel Sonia’s gaze burning holes into the back of his head.
The party wears on, and Leon moves from person to person, not wanting to be accosted by a concerned friend again, not wanting to have to explain everything that’s wrong and isn’t wrong at the same time. He smiles his signature grin, and eventually, as he’s in the midst of talking to Champion Lance about their shared experience with Charizard, he feels arms wrap around his middle and a chin rest on his head. Lance chuckles.
“Can I take my boyfriend, Lance?” Raihan asks. Lance waves his hand and moves away to talk to Iris, who Leon caught up with a bit earlier, but they chat enough via text that he didn’t seek her out in particular.
Leon turns in Raihan’s arms and rests his palms on his chest. He adjusts Raihan’s tie, which has gone slightly askew, and tilts his head up to meet his eyes. Raihan hums and runs his knuckles gently along Leon’s jawline. He leans in and kisses him deeply. He tastes a bit like the gross punch, but he’s also warm. Leon feels Raihan nip his bottom lip and barely holds back a gasp. He pulls back and furrows his brows up at Raihan.
“It’s late,” Raihan offers.
Leon rolls his eyes, “Fine, fine, let’s head back to the hotel.”
The two of them say their goodbyes and head back to their shared room. They stopped bothering with separate suites once they made their relationship public. As Leon fumbles with his keys in the front door, Raihan kisses up his neck, thumbs playing with the waistband of his slacks. Leon pushes the door open and pulls Raihan in by the front of his coat. He slams the door shut louder than he intended too and gently shoves Raihan back against it. The taller man is looking down at him with a lopsided grin.
“You always look so good in formal-wear.” He says, sounding sober. Still, best to ask.
“How much have you had to drink?”
“Just one glass. I wanted to chug straight vodka to get rid of the taste of whatever they were serving.”
Leon hums his agreement. “In that case,” he says, beginning to pull at the buttons of Raihan’s coat. “I have some ideas before we go to sleep.”
Raihan lets out a low chuckle as the two of them stumble back to the bed.
An hour and a half later, the two of them lay in the bed, Raihan absently fiddling with Leon’s freshly washed hair as he dozes. Eventually, he yawns and gives up, wrapping his arms around Leon and pulling him close. He presses his mouth to the back of Leon’s bare shoulder and sighs.
“I love you,” he says, “sweet dreams, Dandelion.”
Leon is sixteen. He’s sitting in on a meeting with a sponsor. They’re discussing using his Champion Time slogan on t-shirts, and Leon could frankly not care less. The man who was speaking was continually trying to make eye contact with him and didn’t seem to get the message when Leon’s eyes would constantly flit downwards. Eye contact was always a weird subject for him. He didn’t mind doing it with people he was comfortable with, and in battles, he could fudge it, but here? He felt like they were demanding something of him, and he didn’t know how to deliver whatever it was they wanted.
“Leon,” Rose’s voice is icy as it shakes Leon from his thoughts. Leon blinks and flashes the sponsor a wide smile, hoping that’s what he wants. Rose’s gaze upon him is like fire. The sensation feels almost physical. He feels a sharp, sparking heat along the back of his shoulders.
“I said,” the exasperated sponsor repeated, “will you be happy to sew our logo onto your cape.”
“Oh, um, yes-” Leon glances over at Rose, who frowns, then gives a tiny nod. “Yes,” he says, more confident this time. The sponsor goes back to talking, no longer looking at Leon. Leon sighs and sits back. His chest still feels tight, though. He swallows and breathes deeply, attempting to dislodge any anxiety that’s resting there. It doesn’t work. He looks over at Rose.
The room goes black. The sponsor vanishes into dust, the table following soon after, and it’s just the two of them. Leon looks up at Rose, and when he tries to look away, he finds himself pinned. He steps back, hitting a wall. Rose frowns and shoves a hand in a pocket, his glare choking Leon.
Chairman Rose is never mad.
Except for when he is.
“I’m very disappointed in your behavior today,” he begins cooly. An invisible blade pierces Leon’s chest. He gasps at the sensation. Rose continues, cool gaze never faltering as he steps closer, then stops. “When I endorsed you as a gym challenger, then took you under my wing as Champion, I expected better.”
Malice began to ooze into his voice, “Are you going to make me regret my decision, Leon?” Another invisible blade plunges into Leon. There’s blood, now. He tries to move his hands to stop it, but they’re frozen in place.
“I’m sorry,” he rasps.
“You are nothing without me. You remember that, don’t you?” Rose growls now, clenching his fists. “I saw potential in you. If I hadn’t given you that Charmander, you’d just be some useless hick with a Wooloo, mindlessly wandering the wild area until you froze to death.”
This was the Rose no one else saw. The one only Leon got to see, when he stepped out of line. How lucky he was. Leon sobs. Another blade slices through him. His vision flashes black and he slumps, his head hitting concrete. He gasps, and his eyes flutter open, and suddenly he’s able to move his limbs again. He scrambles to sit upright.
Above him, a massive dragon unfurls, its jaws dripping purple ooze. His Charizard lay in a tattered heap nearby. Beyond that, Hop and Victor are curled up together, unmoving.
“Please,” Leon reaches up and presses the heels of his palms to his temples. He digs his nails into his scalp and lets out a painful sob. Eternatus cry rings painfully in his ears. It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Nothing was supposed to end up this way.
Leon blinks up, his eyes bleary with tears. Eternatus cries again and plunges forward.
Leon awakens, his body momentarily paralyzed. He lets out several gasping breaths, his throat feeling narrow and constricting. He finally manages to move, and he bolts upright, grasping desperately for blankets around him. He lets out a loud sob and bunches the fabric of the blanket in front of him in his fists. He sobs loudly and begins to hyperventilate, clutching the bundle close.
“Leon, babe?” Raihan rouses much slower from his sleep. He sits up, blinking rapidly as he attempts to adjust. “Hey, what happened?” he reaches over and rests a hand on Leon’s shoulder. Leon flinches away, though he hadn’t intended to. He feels a pit in his stomach when Raihan frowns at him.
“It’s nothing,” he manages, though tears are still running steadily down his cheeks. He hopes Raihan can’t see them. “Just a dream.” He swallows, “I’m sorry for waking you. You can go back to sleep.” He falls back and drags the blanket over himself then, still trembling and holding back sobs.
There’s a pause, and then Raihan shifts, throwing one arm over Leon so that he’s holding himself over him. “Lee, tell me what I can do.”
“Nothing.” Leon rasps, burning under his boyfriend’s sympathy. “Please. I don’t deserve it. I’m just- I’m overreacting.”
“Was it about Rose again?” Raihan’s voice is barely above a whisper. He feels his boyfriend shimmy his way so that he’s under the blanket with him, bare chest pressed against Leon’s back. “You aren’t overreacting.”
Leon doesn’t answer. He tenses and clenches his jaw hard. Why does Raihan care? I don’t deserve it! Something inside him screams. I don’t! I don’t.
“Leon, angel, please talk to me.”
“Not right now.”
Raihan sighs, and he sounds so utterly defeated. Leon feels him pull back slightly to lie on his side of the bed. Leon bites down on his hand to stop sobs from escaping him. It hurts. He waits for Raihan’s soft snores to echo through the room, and he prays he won’t dream again.
4b. But the nightmares won’t stop. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry--
V. I’m nearly unstoppable in battle
It’s been a little over two years since he and Raihan started dating. A year since they announced their relationship to the public. Leon should be used to the strange sort of attention they get when they’re out in public together. Usually, he is, sometimes, he isn’t. Sometimes, he wishes he could blend into a crowd with Raihan. Raihan seems to feel the same way. When it all gets overwhelming, it seems like Raihan has an unlimited supply of secret restaurants up his sleeve.
They’re never extremely impressive, but they’re out and it’s private, so it’s enough. The one they’re at now has only three tables. Raihan looks like he might explode, though, and Leon wonders what’s got him so worked up. A waiter hands Leon a tiny menu, and Leon furrows his brows as he looks at it.
“C’mon babe, of course I checked if you could eat here before we came.” Raihan reaches over and pokes at one of the options. It’s a pretty basic looking burger, and Leon is grateful. These sorts of places don’t usually have the most gourmet food- but nonetheless a small menu makes Leon nervous. He’s always been a bit of a picky eater.
They order and as the waiter leaves, Leon turns to Raihan. “You seem really excited about this date- what’s the occasion?” he frowns, furrowing his brows in thought.
Raihan leans over to kiss Leon’s forehead. “You look cute, and you’ve been having... You’ve been down, lately. I wanted to do something nice.”
Leon shrinks a little in his seat. He wishes he could hide how he’s feeling from Raihan sometimes. He doesn’t mind talking to him, of course, but he doesn’t want to burden him constantly.
Leon smiles, nice and wide. “Yeah, that’s really sweet- amazing, really- you’re amazing,” he reaches over and rests his hand over Raihan’s. “What’s next, after this?” he manages a genuine smirk, “it’s never just a lunch date with you.”
Raihan snorts and shakes his head, “Yeah, you know me - I was thinking a nice battle, at the top of Hammerlock Stadium. It’s been a while.” He taps his hand on the table, “And then,” he says, drawing out the vowel, he reaches into his pocket and produces two tickets. “I have great seats for Victor’s latest match.” His smile is blinding, and though the idea of being at a Championship match makes Leon feel strange, he can’t help but smile. If he’s there with Raihan, it’ll be fine.
“I’m gonna kick your arse,” Leon says, propping his chin on his hand. Raihan hums and leans forward, pulling Leon into a kiss, which Leon sighs into. They’re interrupted by their waiter nervously clearing his throat.
Leon pulls back quickly. He feels his face warm and he flashes a nervous grin. The waiter hums politely and places their food on the table. They eat in relative silence, Leon’s brows furrowing in thought as he considers what he’ll do for his upcoming match. Raihan watches him, a lopsided grin on his face, and Leon feels confident. He can do this, he can do this -
He can, he will.
They finish their meal and take the back exit out. Raihan releases his Flygon and climbs onto its back before extending a hand to Leon, which isn’t really necessary because Flygon bends down low enough for him to get on by himself. He takes the hand anyway, and wraps his arms around Raihan’s middle. “Ready,” he whispers into Raihan’s shoulder. Raihan taps the side of Flygon’s neck and takes off.
The restaurant was in Hammerlock anyway, so it doesn’t take long for them to reach the roof of Hammerlock stadium. The site of the incident with Eternatus. The site of his failure. He feels his chest tightening with dread, and then a squeeze on his shoulder. He looks up to meet Raihan’s smiling face, and he lets out a long, shaky breath.
“So, what were you thinking?” Leon asks, taking long strides to the opposite side of the roof. It has tall walls along the edges - it isn’t uncommon for battles to happen up here.
“Three on three,” Raihan replies, holding up three fingers. “No Dynamax - don’t wanna draw attention to ourselves.”
Leon nods. He takes another breath and meets Raihan’s eyes across the battlefield. It’s familiar. It’s something they’ve done time and time again. In spite of their environment, he manages to feel calm. He holds his Charizard’s Pokeball in his hand and feels its familiar weight.
Leon summons his Aegislash in the same moment that Raihan summons his Gigalith, a sandstorm erupts around them, and the battle begins.
It’s like he’s back in the stadium, his cape a familiar and comforting weight on his shoulders. It’s just him and Raihan. Where they are doesn’t matter - not right now. They shout over the clamor of the sandstorm, their hits landing strong and true, evenly matched as they ever were. When they take a Pokemon down, their own is always quick to follow.
Soon, Raihan is down to his last Pokemon - his Duraludon , and Leon’s Haxorus is falling in a heap before him. “Bitey, come back,” he calls the dragon by her nickname. She gives an affirmative grunt as she vanishes in a flash of red light.
Raihan’s ace is Duraludon, and it feels right when Leon calls upon his own ace. Charizard appears before him, blinking sand from his eyes, and when he sees Raihan, it lets out a delighted cry and breaths a plume of smoke. Leon chuckles and grins at Raihan.
“Ready for this?” he calls over the howling wind.
“You know I am!”
Raihan’s Rotom buzzes around, snapping pictures of both them and their Pokemon.
He’d taught Charizard a new move not long ago. Raihan never tells him when he was planning on challenging him these days. It’s always sudden, and Leon likes that. It keeps him on his toes. He has to mix it up if he wants to keep up his streak.
“Flicker, use Earthquake!” he calls to his Charizard. The draconic Pokemon parts his jaws in a feral snarl and beats his wings down hard. He rises a few feet in the air, then slams down, all in a few seconds. In that time, Raihan’s expression morphs from one of shock, to excitement.
“Brace yourself, Duraludon!” is all he can say, knowing full well that there was no hope of his Pokemon dodging. Pointed stone burst from the ground. Cracking the cement of the roof - it’s cheap stuff, easily replaced. The hard stone below is safe. Finally, pointed stones circle Duraludon, trapping it. The steel dragon lets out a cry and begins to slash steel claws at its confines. It’s of little use, however, when the earth rumbles directly below, and a split-second later the Pokemon’s smooth steel surface is being pummeled by rocks. Duraludon slams against the spikes around it, causing them to crumble. It stumbles out and shakes itself, breathing heavily. It looks like it may yet prevail for a moment, before it stumbles, and falls to the ground.
Raihan calls his Pokemon back, and Leon jogs forward, patting Flicker on the nose before approaching Raihan, who’s quickly flicking through photos his Rotom took of the fight. “Almost got me there, didn’t you?”
Raihan smiles and rolls a shoulder, “I coulda won- I was going easy.”
Leon knows he wasn’t. He snorts. Raihan wraps an arm around Leon’s waist and pulls out his phone again. As he does, the sound of beating wings sounds from above, followed by the clattering of steel on steel. Leon smiles up at the Corviknight that’s brought them their cab. The mighty bird lands in front of them and leans over to nuzzle into Leon’s hair, so it must be one he’s had before. Leon always gives the Corviknights head pats. He feels like they deserve it. Raihan watches him with a lopsided grin as he reaches back and scratches under the cool feathers around the Corviknights neck. He gives the bird a light pat on the beak before climbing into the cab.
The ride to Wyndon stadium passes in silence. Leon twines his fingers with Raihan’s and watches out the window of the cab as the region passes by, taking deep breaths. He always feels calm at times like these, above it all, only Raihan by his side. He shifts closer to Raihan’s side and rests his head on his shoulder. He looks up and meets Raihan’s eyes. In the glow of the setting sun, his dark skin reflects the light perfectly.
“You look beautiful,” Leon murmurs, “thanks for today.” Raihan blushes- he always does, when Leon calls him beautiful, which is why he reserves it for special occasions. He doesn’t respond, but Leon doesn’t need him to. At one point he opens his phone and takes a picture of the both of them. They look a bit worse for wear. Both of them have sand in their hair, but Leon smiles at the camera nonetheless.
They land behind Wyndon Stadium, in the VIP area, and as Leon steps down from the cab, he’s trapped in a hug by Hop. Leon laughs, wraps his arms around his brother’s waist, hoists him up, and spins him around.
“Lee! Put me down!” Hop cries, smacking his shoulders. Leon complies, a wide grin spreading across his features. Raihan hums behind Leon. He rests his chin on top of Leon’s head and waves to Hop.
“Think your boyfriend can keep up his win-streak?” Raihan teases.
“I know he will,” Hop says, crossing his arms across his chest. He’s hit another growth spurt, Leon realizes. At sixteen, he now stands almost as tall as Leon. He wonders if Hop will outgrow him at this point. He’s snapped from those thoughts by Hop continuing, “but we best get to our seats - battle starts in fifteen.”
The finalist that is facing Victor is a returning star from the previous year. Her name is Gloria, and folks have had their eyes on her since she moved from Alola and started her gym challenge. The battle is heated, but Leon can barely hear the roar of the crowd as he leans forward intently and watches from where he, Raihan, Hop, and a few league members sit on their private balcony. Gloria always has a certain fire in her eyes. You can see it when the cameras flicker past her.
Victor is sweating, and Leon can feel the electric reaction to it in the crowd. Ruthless. They’re ruthless. Leon grips his knees tightly and furrows his brow in concentration. Beside him, Raihan has his arms folded on the railing, jaw clenched. Hop looks like he wants to jump out of his seat and run to Victor right then and there, the distance to the ground the only thing stopping him.
They’re both down to two Pokemon. Victor’s Cinderace aims a Pyro ball at Gloria’s weakened Corviknight, and the bird crashes to the ground.
Next, she sends out her starter Pokemon - a Primarina. The camera pans over Victor as he grits his teeth and clenches his fists at his side. He orders a Gunk shot. His Cinderace nods, looking equal parts nervous and excited. The Pokemon shoots a smile back at his trainer before readying the poison type move.
Leon gasps audibly and leans over the railing, eyes intent.
Gloria smiles, and her Primarina turns its head up, flipping its hair.
“Sparkling Aria!” Gloria’s voice rings through the stadium through the hundreds of speakers. Needless to say, Victor’s Cinderace falls.
“I wonder what his last Pokemon will be,” Raihan whispers to himself, “Zacian? He hasn’t used that yet.”
Leon offers a tiny nod in response. Zacian could probably win, though its attacks would be neutral, unless Victor has taught it something super effective since last time. Victor fiddles with his Pokeballs, looking uncertain, though it’s not like he has more than one option left. Slowly, he takes an ultra ball from his holster and takes a deep breath before throwing it.
There’s a flash of white, and then a long, serpentine body materializes. Leon freezes. He’s vaguely aware of Raihan speaking softly to him, but the words are lost in a loud, almost physically painful buzzing in Leon’s head. He feels dizzy. His chest feels like it might collapse. He can’t breathe.
Eternatus rears its head and lets out a deafening cry. Leon’s vision blurs. He stands and runs. He stumbles and falls. His knees hit the concrete, sending a wave of pain through him. He stands up and keeps running, turning corners blindly, his throat tightening as he goes, until he can’t stand anymore. He collapses in some corner, hopefully far away from the prying eyes of people. His back hits the wall hard and he crumples to the floor.
He shakes, and the distant cries of the battle feel all-too close. All too real. He lost to Victor two years ago. A few days before that, he lost to that beast. He’d almost been killed. All of Galar could have been killed, because he wasn’t enough.
Hop, Victor, Raihan . They could have all been dead, because of him. He still can’t breathe. He doesn’t know how he’s still awake. Sobs rattle him, and he feels it down to his bones. He feels fingers reach down to comb through his hair and hears someone sit down next to him.
Leon blinks open teary eyes and meets Raihan’s own. His boyfriend is offering a calm smile. Leon buries his face in the front of his hoodie.
“You were right,” Leon hiccups. Raihan doesn’t ask what he means. He only rubs circles against Leon’s back and holds him close. Leon lets out a ragged breath. “I need to talk to someone about this- all of this.”
There’s a pause, then, “I love you, Lee,” whispered against his hair. “I’ll help you look, okay? I hear there’s a therapist in Hoenn who’s helped a lot of current and former league members.” Raihan pulls back slightly to press a kiss to Leon’s forehead.
“Let’s go home, cuddle, and then we can start figuring this all out, okay?”
Leon nods. He feels so pathetic. He should be stronger than this. It’s been two years, and a simple loss- something that had turned out fine in the end, still shook him.
5b. But when I lose, it shakes me to my core. I’m so pathetic. I’m sorry
I’m sorry, I’m sorry--
6. I think I might be broken
Raihan amps Leon up before his first session, even though he has to go take care of gym business and won’t be home until late. Leon spends the morning sitting in his lap as much as he can and dozing on his shoulder, quietly thinking about what he might do or say when he talks to Mrs. Stone.
She’s Steven Stone’s mum, apparently. She’s worked with pretty much every recent Champion, which Leon thinks says a lot about the nature of the job. Raihan braids Leon’s hair and occasionally presses kisses to the top of his head.
When he has to leave, Raihan pauses at the doorway. He turns and rests his hands on either side of Leon’s face. He looks down at him and pauses for a long moment. He opens his mouth several times, clearly struggling to find the words he wants. After a couple of attempts to speak, Leon reaches up and squeezes Raihan’s shoulder. Raihan lets one of his hands fall back to his side, and Leon leans into the other.
“You’re the most beautiful man on the planet, I hope you know,” Raihan finally manages.
“Look in the mirror, darling,” Leon says. Raihan chuckles and pulls him into a quick kiss before pulling back and sighing.
“I have to go. I’ll bring home the saltiest takeout I can find on the way home.”
He shoots Leon a toothy grin, and Leon thinks, that’s the man I’m going to marry someday . It makes the whole ordeal with talking to this therapist feel a bit better. For about thirty minutes.
At 2PM Leon finds himself fiddling with his thumbs and bouncing his leg in front of his hovering Rotom phone as it rings once, twice--
On the third ring, an image appears on the screen, and Leon sits up straight. The woman in front of him does, indeed, look a lot like the former Hoenn Champion. She smiles warmly and sits back in her chair. “Hello there, Leon.”
Leon manages a smile.
The first twenty minutes are a bit awkward - they introduce themselves, even though it probably isn’t necessary. It does, admittedly, make Leon feel a bit better. Eventually, she asks Leon if he’d prefer to lead, or if she should ask questions.
Leon pauses for a moment, and then he says, without really thinking about it, in spite of spending the entire past week just thinking about what he should say when he arrived at this moment, “Raihan says I might be… affected. By Rose. By Eternatus.”
“Right,” Mrs. Stone says, her voice level, “and what do you think?”
Leon sighs and sinks deeper into the couch. “It doesn’t make sense,” his voice comes out barely above a whisper. “I was… fine, right after it all happened. I had a cry, then I was back on my feet pretty quickly. I only started feeling these things, and the nightmares only started, almost a year after the fact.” It feels like a lie when he says it, like he’s somehow exaggerating, though he’s reasonably sure that he hasn’t said anything untrue.
Mrs. Stone writes something down, “Sometimes,” she says, putting down her notepad, “trauma takes a while to manifest. It isn’t uncommon to not feel the full effects until over a year later.”
“Is that what it is?” Leon laughs, and he doesn’t know why. “Trauma? It seems so severe to say that. There’s people who have it worse.” He thinks of Hop. He’s gone through a lot of the same things and then some. He thinks of Gym Leader Bede, and his relationship with Rose. Maybe he should talk to him, too.
Maybe he should do a lot of things that he hasn’t done. When he begins to think of all the people he should talk to, it suddenly feels very heavy. Mrs. Stone calls his attention back to her.
“A lot of people have it better, too,” Mrs. Stone replies, “but trauma, mental health, they don’t stop to consider how good your life is relative to other people.” She offers a kind smile, and Leon thinks it reaches him in some way. He smiles back.
“You sound like you have a solid support system. Raihan, Sonia, your little brother, even- it might be good to talk to them more about these things. You can start small, but expressing your concerns is healthy. And it sounds like they care.”
Leon looks down at his hands, “They do.”
Mrs. Stone nods. “Before we end our session, I was hoping we could go over some mindfulness exercises for you to try when you’re alone.”
And so they do, and Leon leaves the session feeling mostly the same, really. But not entirely. He knows a few more things about himself now, maybe. He sits back on the couch and stares at the ceiling. His phone buzzes. He frowns, knowing it can’t be Raihan- he’ll be mid-battle right now. He opens his phone, and a small smile creeps onto his features.
Hop: how’d your first session go!! Love u lee!!
Hop: sonia says she loves u too!!
He has them. He closes his eyes and breathes. Mindfulness. He listens to the sounds around him. His own breathing. The soft sound of his Rotom buzzing idly, his Charizard and Raihan’s Flygon, who wasn’t on his team today, dozing together in the next room. The quiet rumble of the refrigerator.
It helps a little.
He takes a deep breath and looks down at his phone. He dials the number of his family doctor and schedules an appointment to get started on a medication to help him deal with his symptoms.
He texts Hop back. Went well. Love you too. The four of us should get together for lunch later this week .
The response comes immediately. Sonia says she’ll cook up some spicy curry!! Just say when!!
Leon slips his phone into his pocket and flips on the telly. He covers himself with a blanket and watches, dozing periodically, for the remainder of the afternoon.
Raihan comes home and rolls over the back of the couch, landing thankfully not on Leon’s legs. He stretches out and cuddles under Leon’s chin. Leon snorts and leans over to blow an obnoxiously loud raspberry against Raihan’s cheek. The taller man yelps and sits up, rubbing at his cheek with the most adorable pout.
“It went well,” Leon says. Raihan smiles and goes to retrieve the takeout he left by the front door so that he could perform his flip onto the couch. He passes a burger into Leon’s hands and drizzles dressing onto his salad.
“Go on,” he mumbles around a mouthful of spinach.
Leon does. He tells Raihan everything, including the part about opening up to him, which he responds to by kissing Leon’s cheek. When he mentions the lunch date with Hop and Sonia, Raihan suggests Sunday, which Leon agrees should work. Finally, he mentions the appointment with his doctor. Raihan pauses, puts down his salad.
“Put your food down a sec.”
Leon frowns, but does as instructed. Before he knows it, he’s being pulled into a crushing hug. He lets out a barking laugh, because of course that’s what Raihan would do. His boyfriend nuzzles against his neck. “You’re amazing- truly, a gay trans icon.”
Leon swats at him and shoves himself free. “Oh, shut it,” he says around a wide smile. Raihan offers a smug grin in return.
“You were just as sweet on me when I was in my slump before I became gym leader,” Raihan says. Leon blinks. He can barely remember it now. A lot of his time as Champion is a blur- something he should probably bring up to Mrs. Stone at some point. It feels so… small. Of course he’d help Raihan. He’d do anything for him.
It occurs to him that Raihan probably feels the same way about what Leon’s going through right now, but it feels difficult to conceptualize those scenarios as being equal. Maybe in time.
Raihan takes a photo of them eating their takeout together. When he posts it, he scrolls through the comments and shows Leon the funny ones. They fall into their usual routine for the rest of the night. Raihan tells him about the stragglers who just missed the Championship, and how he doesn’t think any of them will beat Gloria, nevermind Victor, if they bother to compete next season.
“Of course, none of them even compare to the great Raihan ,” he twirls his hand around, “what you all don’t know is I’m only ever operating at fifty percent- none of you have seen me in my true glory.” And the smirk he’s wearing earns a loud, uncontrolled laugh from Leon.
Eventually, Leon ends up on top of Raihan, kissing up and down his neck, snaking his hands under his shirt. They move to the bed.
After that, and after Raihan takes his meds and Leon takes his shot, they both end up snuggled close in their bed. Leon presses his forehead to Raihan’s chest and hums contently. They lay there for a while, Raihan steadily running his fingers through his hair. Eventually, Raihan’s movements start to slow.
Leon thinks about Eternatus. Rose. His recurring nightmares.
“Raihan?” he says, his voice hushed. Raihan hums in response. Leon pauses for a long while.
“Dandelion?” Raihan whispers, moving the hand that was stroking Leon’s hair to cup his cheek.
“I’m worried about nightmares,” Leon admits, feeling like a child. He meets Raihan’s eyes, however, and finds no judgment there.
“You can wake me for anything,” Raihan says, leaning down to press a fleeting kiss to Leon’s lips. “No matter how small.”
Leon nods. He knows it’s true. He takes a deep, steadying breath and closes his eyes. Raihan falls asleep first, but Leon follows not long after.
He doesn’t have any nightmares that night.
6b. I think I might be healing, too.